Jubilee lives in a strikingly bizarre world, in which silver mist arises from the earth to kill living beings, remake non-living matter, and bring random buildings and even entire empty cities back from the past. Because the “silver” tends to destroy written records, the people are very vague and confused about their history, though they have a high degree of poorly-understood technology. They also have some extremely odd customs regarding sex and love – people can only marry (or, apparently, have sex with) their one true mate, as determined by genetic testing - which turn out to be based on even odder biology.

When Jubilee is a little girl, her brother Jolly claims to have called the silver –right before he vanishes into it forever. Years later, a man walks out of the silver, which no one should be able to survive, and asks her where her brother is, before walking back into it. Jubilee begins to investigate the possibility that Jolly could still be alive, and that some people can survive the silver.

The first third of the novel, which appears to be hard sf set in a world whose inhabitants think they’re living in high fantasy, is a fascinating farrago of strangeness and mystery, with such intriguing worldbuilding that I wasn’t bothered by the thin characterization. The rest of the book, which sends Jubilee on a roundabout quest and introduces an irritatingly powerful and insufficiently motivated supervillain, doesn’t live up to the promise of the earliest sections.

I had hoped that all the weirdness would come together in a coherent explanation of the secretly sfnal origins of the world, and that “it’s all virtual reality” would not be the explanation. There is an explanation, but one which only covers a small portion of all the peculiarities. It’s not “it’s all virtual reality,” but it’s not complete enough to be truly satisfying.

Memory

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